TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Duke Blue Devils have moments where they look fallible. Losses to NC State and Miami diminish their resume.
But then Duke shows just how good they are, how dominating they can really be for 40 minutes. And it shows just how tough a matchup the Blue Devils will be for anyone in the NCAA tournament.
No. 5 Duke put on a basketball clinic Saturday afternoon, shooting 62.1 percent from the floor in the first half. The Blue Devils put up 42 points — the most Florida State had allowed in the first 20 minutes of a game this season — and were ahead by 20 at halftime.
Seth Curry scored 21 points — knocking down five 3-pointers — and Quinn Cook added 18 points as Duke crushed Florida State 79-60 at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
The Blue Devils held the Seminoles to just 28 percent shooting in the first half, and Florida State’s Michael Snaer had only seven points in the game.
“Our guys played a terrific basketball game,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “The defense was superb.”
It wasn’t even close. Duke (19-2, 6-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) scored the game’s first 11 points and extended the lead to 18-2. The Blue Devils were up by as much as 26 — 38-12 — with 3:09 left in the half. And they poured it on in the second half, jumping out to a 50-22 lead as the Seminoles gave up their highest point total of the season.
This was a Krzyzewski coaching clinic. Duke shot 60.8 percent from the floor, made 11 of 18 shots from beyond the arc and committed just 10 turnovers. The Blue Devils showed Florida State and the ACC how good they are on both ends of the court.
“You couldn’t have a better start,” Krzyzewski said. “You look up and you’re winning by a lot and there’s 14:56 to go in the first half. All the mental stuff that can happen to a team when you do have a lead never happened to our team.”
And don’t think for a minute that Duke’s players and Krzyzewski didn’t want this, a rout on Florida State’s home floor against a team that took two of three games from the Blue Devils last season (including the ACC tournament semifinal last March, where Florida State won and eventually captured the conference title).
Florida State (12-9, 4-4 ACC) looked lethargic in the first half, a common theme for the Seminoles in ACC play. They shot just 8 of 28 in the first 20 minutes and trailed 42-22. Florida State trailed by more than 20 points for most of the second half, and not even Snaer could save them.
Snaer was 0 for 5 in the first half and didn’t make his first basket, a 3-pointer, until the 15:15 mark of the second half. He shot just 3 of 13 for the game.
“Rasheed (Sulaimon) did a good job on him,” Krzyzewski said. “It was Rasheed’s best defensive performance of the year.”
Duke has rebounded well from the frustrating losses to NC State and Miami. Since the blowout in Coral Gables, the Blue Devils are 3-0, including routs of Maryland and Florida State.
It was just the response that Krzyzewski was looking for.
“I’m proud of our guys, since the Miami game, to win three games in (the last) seven days and two of them on the road,” Krzyzewski said. “Shows I have good kids and they’re working hard.”
Aaron Thomas had 14 points for the Seminoles, who have lost four of their past six games. And both of those wins came on Snaer 3-pointers at the buzzer.
Thomas said that Duke’s early run on Saturday was demoralizing for Florida State.
“It’s hard to come back,” Thomas said. “When they up 18-2, it’s like we just shut down, like the game was over.”
Florida State does have 10 regular-season games left to improve their postseason resume. But right now, it’s filled with ugly nonconference losses and a few Snaer buzzer-beaters. There are no victories over Top-25 programs, no signature wins yet to hang their hat on.
For now, the defending ACC champions are clearly fighting for the NIT after four consecutive years of reaching the NCAA tournament. It won’t be official, of course, until Selection Sunday, but the Seminoles haven’t made much of an argument for committee members.
The Seminoles would need to make quite a run down the stretch, starting on the road against Georgia Tech on Tuesday.
“If we are going to find a way to get back in the NCAA conversation, we’re going to have to do something exceptional,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We’re going to have to do something outside of the box. … We’re not going to have very much room for error.”